She was standing over the kitchen sink talking on the phone. The chord was stretched out and wrapped around her torso, but she didn’t notice.
No. We didn’t take money out of the ATM this week. She said nervously then shook her head and hung up.
When I walked in the kitchen she was dialing the phone to call the bank. I opened the refrigerator door and took a few chugs of cold milk. She was asking the customer service rep if there were any withdrawals in the last 48 hours and she said that she just noticed her bank card was missing.
Mom, let’s go back to grandma’s apartment, maybe your card fell out when we were there yesterday, I said while she waited on hold.
I needed to stall her so that I could sneak into her purse and put the card back, but it was too late. The person on the other end of the phone said that there were two withdrawals on the account late last night, sometime after midnight, from the ATM on upper Front Street across from Broome Community College.
I had to destroy the card. I cut it into as many pieces as I could and hid them all over the house. I shoved shards of plastic under the couch, some in the cushions, and some in the garbage.
A police report was filed the next day and the bank was able to get still shots from the surveillance cameras. There were four pictures on thin paper; they were like still shots from an ultrasound. My parents didn’t show me the photos because they didn’t want me to see what they saw. They couldn’t look me in the eyes when they asked me what they did wrong. I never understood this question and they asked it all of the time. It is strange that when we talk about this story now it sounds completely different because we sort of laugh about it as if it’s almost impossible to believe now that I am sober ten years. A couple of years ago I tried to pay my parents back, but they refused my money; they said that Deanna and I could use it to pay our bills.
I learned how to balance my parent’s checkbook in the middle of the night when I was sixteen years old. I’d sit at my dad’s desk, open the drawer, take the checkbook and calculator out, and look for odd numbers that I could round up. I didn’t need glasses, but sometimes I’d put his on and push them to the tip of my nose as I padded his expense account—fifty bucks here, ten there, just enough to pay a drug-dealer debt and a little extra. One of my dealers was a friend’s mom and she always called my dad a zipperhead because he worked for IBM as a salesman. She said that IBMers are always unzipping their pants and having affairs when they go away on business trips, but she didn’t know that my dad was ignorant or that he almost became a priest instead of marrying my mom. It makes sense to me now that my parents tried to raise me Catholic, and it makes even more sense that my confirmation name is Santina, after my great grandmother; the woman who married a forty-two year-old man when she was fourteen. She used to ask him for a nickel and would spend the day roller skating all over town. Sometimes I wonder if Santina is a part of me, not because she is my great grandmother, but because we both gallivanted on the same streets.
The day my parents filed the police report for their stolen ATM card I got a ride home from my dealer. I rode in the trunk of her Oldsmobile because I didn’t want to be spotted sitting in the car with this crack head and I sort of thought I was tough, that getting in the trunk of the car was cool; I tucked myself into a ball and laid in the dark until she pulled up in front of my house, 22 David Drive, the white house with the black shutters on the corner. When I got out of the trunk and walked into the house my mom asked who dropped me off. I told her it was a friend from school. I still believe that I convinced my mom that this woman—the woman with no front teeth and sucked in cheeks who drives a car that sounds like a jet plane because the muffler is falling off—was just a friend from school. I don’t think my mother was looking out of a window that faced the front of the house when I got out of the car trunk. She was probably cooking dinner in the kitchen, looking out of the window that faced the backyard, where the trees were overgrown. My mom didn’t look away from the chicken she was preparing when I walked in the house. My dad was probably out of town for work that day and I probably went to my room and emptied my pockets before dinner. I shoved little plastic bags of weed, mushrooms, and acid into a teddy bear’s ass. The brown teddy bear that sat in a hammock with my other stuffed animals will get packed in a box in a few years when I get ready to go to college. This box will get stored in my grandfather’s closet until he dies. I won’t open this box ever again; I’ll just move it to the garbage pile.